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Dr. Cheddi Jagan, a champion of the poor

Dr Cheddi Jagan

Guyana, March 7 (UITV)- Spending most of his political career as an opponent of the government in power in his native Guyana, Cheddi Jagan was a controversial firebrand with Marxist-Leninist learning who had his greatest success when he was in his seventies. His communist learning forced his to overcome resistance from both inside and outside his country for decades, yet he remained a popular figure due to his tireless efforts on behalf of the workers and a long-dominated Indian majority in his country.

Born on March 22, 1918 on sugar plantation in Port Mourant, Berbice, the son of indentured sugar workers. His parents had arrived in the then British Guiana as young infants with their mothers from the district of Basti in Uttar Pradesh, India in 1901. Although education options for Indians on the plantations were limited, his parents recognize his potential and made major financial outlays to send him to a better secondary school in the capital of Georgetown.

At the age of eighteen, Jagan went to the United States and became a pre-medical student at Howard University in Washington D.C. When he graduated from Northwestern University in 1942 with his degree in Dental Surgery (DDS), he also received his Bachelor of Science (B.Sc) degree.

In October 1943, he returned home. In 1947Jagan entered the political arena by being elected to the British Guiana assembly. Three years later he brought a new dimension in his country’s politics when he and his wife created the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), which was the first modern political organization in the country.

In election held under the new British-granted constitution in 1953, the PPP won the majority of the seats in the House of Assembly and Jagan became the country’s Prime Minister.

His subsequent program of radical socioeconomic reforms, however, along with the strikes and demonstration encouraged by his party, prompted the British authorities in late 1953 to dismiss him from office, suspend the new constitution, and send in troops to prevent the consolidation of the government that they viewed as procommunist.

After a PPP victory in August 1961 elections, Jagan became Chief Minister for the second time, serving for three years.

Under a new system of proportional representation instituted by the British in 1964, the PPP lost the general elections of 1964 to People’s National Congress (PNC). Jagan served as the leader of the parliamentary opposition from then on and was the PPP’s general secretary from 1970.

After 28 years in opposition, the PPP won the October 1992 elections with about 54% of the votes, and Jagan became President. While striving the new barriers to collective trade in Americas during his final years, Jagan never stopped voicing his support for the workers.

He died on March 6, 1997, a few weeks after having heart surgery following a heart attack. Prime Minister Sam Hinds successes him as President and declared six days of mourning.